Geographic Information Systems (GIS) refers to a set of tools and applications capable of storing, manipulating, visualizing, and analyzing spatial or non-spatial data (Geographic Information System n.d.). GIS was first used in 1968 by Roger Tomlinson to aid in regional planning, and has evolved dramatically in popularity since. Spatial analysis has always been important, and it remains so today: even before GIS was invented, John Snow was using spatial analysis to determine the cause of a cholera outbreak (Maina, 2017). Today, GIS is essential to daily life, even helping popular mapping software optimize routes for us.
Available through paid outlets such as the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and open source outlets like the Quantum Geographic Information System (QGIS), GIS enables users to manage and generate useful information from complex data. Available on desktop and mobile platforms, GIS enjoys applications in almost every field including healthcare, transportation, and criminal justice.
GIS engages an audience to a purpose, with open source data making content creation easier than ever; as the definitive driving force that makes online mapping accessible and diversified, GIS is also beneficial in disaster management. Emergency response teams are increasingly making use of GIS to create online maps highlighting affected disaster areas, providing vital information to first responders that saves time critical to relief efforts.
GIS is incredibly diverse: in agriculture, it enables farmers to plan, manage, and map their land using open source data. Used to forecast and plan projected crop harvests, estimate optimal yields, and store other types of data in an organized format, GIS is invaluable to the agricultural industry.
GIS also increasingly simplifies the process of decision-making. It is advantageous in the weather forecast in your area, thereby enabling you to decide whether you should wear a coat. GIS is also being consumed in mapping nearby restaurants. In addition, it is also helpful in analysing traffic patterns and thus facilitates managing time efficiently (Benton, 2017). It is getting incorporated into your real-time decision-making in more diverse areas of daily life.
Frequently used in service industries, GIS is fundamental to everyday decision-making. Weather forecasts, business mapping, and analyzing traffic patterns all make use of GIS software, facilitating and enabling optimal time management and informed decision-making.
GIS may be used by governing bodies to facilitate the emergence of crowdsourced, citizen scientists. A governing body will provide a website that allows the public to gather and submit useful data that would normally demand the time of highly-paid scientists. For example: a link to a video feed presiding over an eagle’s nest may be provided, permitting the public to collect desirable scientific data on the animal’s nesting habits. This information may be collected by scientists and inspected for quality control, ultimately saving time and money while simultaneously benefiting society.
Currently, the government collects most baseline data for GIS analysts – a very expensive process. Many large companies collect their own data, but it is typically considered proprietary data and is restricted for internal use. Knowledge data, which refers to making most of the data in existence available to anyone willing to analyze it, is perhaps the next revolution in GIS. Regardless, GIS has evolved dramatically over the past 50 years and will undeniably continue to do so in terms of available software, platforms, and regulations permitting their use.
Benton, L. (2017). Thoughts on the future of GIS. What will change in 50 years? Techno FAQ. Retrieved from https://technofaq.org/posts/2017/07/thoughts-on-the-future-of-gis-what-will-change-in- 50-years/
Geographic Information System (N.d.). Wikepedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographic_information_system
Goodchild, M. F. (N.d.). Looking forward: Five thoughts on the future of GIS. ESRI. Retrieved from http://www.esri.com/news/arcwatch/0211/future-of-gis.html
Harder, C. (2016). The online mapping revolution. Esri Insider. Retrieved from https://blogs.esri.com/esri/esri-insider/2016/06/01/the-online-mapping-revolution/
Maina, B. (2017). IT advancement and the revolution of GIS. Retrieved from https://www.cio.co.ke/blogs/advancement-revolution-gis/
Wieczorek, W. F., & Delmerico, A. M. (2009). Geographic Information Systems. Computational statistics, 1(2), 167- 186.doi: 10.1002/wics.21.